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Pajero vs Prado: Know the safety features of your vehicle

Wednesday July 4 2018

When buying a car, safety should be your number one concern.

When buying a car, safety should be your number one concern. PHOTO| FILE 

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I wish to thank you for your educative articles. I am currently driving Mitsubishi Outlander 2000cc 4WD (With selector knob), which has been quite sluggish when picking up speed. Now I want to upgrade to Pajero diesel engine or Prado TX.

Most of the road I use is tarmacked except few trenches that might need a 4WD when it rains. I do roughly 50-100km daily. I am looking at safety, fuel economy and reliability. A mention of any other options apart from the above will be appreciated.
Joseph Rotich.

Hello Rotich,
This will be an interesting one because it appears that for the first time ever, a Pajero actually comes out on top in a contest, ahead of the oft-mentioned Prado.

This does not apply to reliability, that is an automatic Prado win; and fuel economy will swing whichever way the more circumspect driver leans - no, let's talk about safety. Yes, safety.

There is this irritating tendency of Kenyans to blame Prados for the spate of recent corner-related accidents on the road. The script is the same: a person gets themselves behind the wheel of a Prado (invariably a diesel with a high pressure turbo), they immediately revel in the burst of torque that kicks in every time the massive blower spools up, and they quickly discover that they can dispatch lesser cars with ease... in a straight line.


They also promptly forget that physics is a cruel master that cannot be bent and C-of-G is his most ruthless minion. Here comes a corner.

They will enter the corner way faster than they are supposed to and their world will go topsy-turvy; literally upside down. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they survive long enough to cast aspersions on the lineage of the inventor of off-road vehicles in general and the Land Cruiser Prado in particular.

They will then go on vitriolic, ill-informed, vengeful and vocal campaigns to get the vehicle proscribed globally, overlooking the simple fact that no one, and I mean no one, has ever bought a Prado at gunpoint.

Death and taxes are unavoidable, but Prados can be steered clear of as a matter of personal choice and on the strength of unconfirmed rumours, especially if you didn't do well in both science class and at the driving school but somehow have access to a licence and a Prado.

Stop blaming the small Land Cruiser. This is why it is wobbly; it has what we call a body-on-frame chassis whereby that overly familiar, highly convoluted bodywork is mounted as a separate piece on the upper side of a prone metallic ladder, same ladder onto which the axles are bolted on the lower side.

This is not good for handling, mostly because it is the same technology mankind was using back when the earth was flat; but it is very robust construction that can withstand a lot of attrition and that is why it is used on the world's toughest off-road vehicle.

2017 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. PHOTO| COURTESY
2017 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. PHOTO| COURTESY

Let's be clear: the Toyota Land Cruiser is designed to tackle lunar landscapes, not chase Subaru on twisty roads.

This raison d'être explains the other reason why the Prado is wobbly: it has a very tall and soft suspension. This is to optimise wheel articulation, which in a nutshell is what allows SUVs to tiptoe around deep ruts and steep mounds, sometimes simultaneously, without beaching themselves.

Again, this setup is not good for on-road handling, AT ALL. This is what makes driving a Prado such a roller-coaster experience, and the vehicle is best approached with discretionary restraint, not overzealous fervour. Go easy on the throttle, sheeple.

So now, the Pajero. Unlike the Prado, it uses what we call a monocoque chassis, which in simplistic terms is whereby the body and the frame are one and the same.

There isn't a separate frame onto which to bolt the body, the axles are attached directly to the body via sub frames (we'll discuss these later) making for a very pleasant and enjoyable ride. Pajeros are very comfortable to ride in and very nice to drive, even on tarmac, which is high praise for an SUV of its calibre.

It is to Mitsubishi's credit that the self-same Pajero is also highly capable when the going gets industrial, despite its unibody construction setup. It's not by chance that they have won the Dakar several times, those engineers know how to make an off-road vehicle that handles like a saloon car. Too bad they didn't know how to make them last longer, but I digress...

It therefore follows that a restless Kenyan in a state of permanent haste is less likely to kill himself in a Pajero than in a Prado, because the Pajero is more forgiving of high speed shenanigans. The Prado isn't.

The Pajero rides lower than the Prado (which is where the men are separated from the boys: it will get to a point where the Toyota will Rush (pun intended) where the Mitsu fears to tread) and therefore has a lot less body roll and takes more effort to tip over.

Are you restless, of average motoring skill and always in a hurry? Pajero.

Do you want a car that could outlast your grandchildren and keep running long past Armageddon? Prado.

Are you restless, of average motoring skills and always in a hurry? Find out which car suits you.

Which model is relatively easy to maintain?


I hope I catch your attention this time round after several failed attempts.

I am torn between VW Toureg (2011-2013) Vs Toyota Prado 2.7cc (2010-2012) and Vs Jeep Grand Cherokee (2011-2012).

Kindly advise on the model that would be relatively easy to run and maintain.

Also, what would you prefer between the petrol and diesel versions of the three vehicles? Joe.

Hi Joe,

The answer is “Toyota”, which you should have figured out purely on the strength of being a Kenyan.

It is vital that you used the word “relatively” because at the risk of misconstruing my words, I need to clarify that Prados cannot be run on saloon car budgets. Not even the lowly 2.7.

The reason the Prado wins is because it has the base engine: the 2.7 litre 4-cylinder petrol that only boasts variable valve timing and fuel injection.

The suspension comprises coil springs and telescoping shock absorbers, it has a low range gearbox and electronically-activated mechanical locking diffs. In other words, it is a lump of metal, and lumps of metal don’t die.

There is more electrical current running around that car than can power a fully-kitted university computer laboratory; and speaking of computers, the processing power within all the control modules that comprise the CAN bus network in a Touareg is enough to remotely control a space shuttle.

In simple English, this is a highly wired vehicle; and highly wired vehicles are the bane of the preowned shopping enthusiast.

Toyota Auris 2018.  PHOTO| COURTESY
Toyota Auris 2018. PHOTO| COURTESY

It will not be easy to run, and it will definitely not be easy to maintain. If it is not motherboard problems, or failing turbos and clogging DPFs in the diesel, there are two more words I have for you; words that send shivers down the spine of anybody who knows anything about cars and does not fall into the infamous one per cent economical demographic: AIR SUSPENSION. Run.

And now the Jeep. The Jeep is less complex owing to its Yank origins. Americans only make two elaborate objects: cheeseburgers and military equipment.

Everything else is simplistic, which includes this Jeep if you place it next to a Touareg. And you can do that very easily; they’re both sold by the same person here in Kenya: DT Dobie.

The Jeep also has its relatives to offer genetic support: the Wrangler, which is the immediate grandson of the original Willys, is the only known nemesis to the Land Rover Defender with its outstanding off-road talent because it will do all the Defender will do, but unlike the Defender, it won’t stop working somewhere inconvenient.

However, history does not really favour the Grand Cherokee either, the previous model, the WK platform was a bit rubbish despite being half Mercedes... or because of it, who knows. So this is a bit of a 50:50 kind of thing, but at least a malfunctioning GC won’t have the additional headache of requiring an IT expert just to figure out which module does what.

The Cherokee may not be necessarily easier to run than the Touareg, especially where fuel economy is concerned (the Touareg diesel is impressive as a teetotaller, if a little sensitive to what you feed it), but it should be less of a horror keeping it alive, electrically and mechanically.

Of course the Jeep’s 3.6 litre V6 will not match the Prado’s 2.7 litre four, but such numbers tend to vary widely depending on application. If it is power you are after, then maybe that 2.7 VVT-i is not for you.

Long story short? The Prado wins again.

Addendum: the Touareg Mk. II really is soaked in concentrated tech. The air suspension, complex already in its empirical form, comes with continuous damping control and adaptive body roll compensation. You need computers for that.

There is a frontal collision avoidance setup, and automatic emergency braking. You need more computers for these.

There is adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring which needs even more computers to run, and these computers feed on signals coming from an array of sensors and a circuit of cameras; a circuit which does not include the four cameras around the car that feed information to you the driver - having gone through a few other computers for processing.

Then there is the 8-speed automatic gearbox, which naturally requires it’s own computer to shift properly. It is a wonder with all this processing power, the Touareg is not a pre-apocalyptic manifestation of the technological singularity; or achieved sentience.

And the beauty of it all? All these features come standard on the Touareg. I am sure you can spec it up even further.

My engine needs more power. Is remapping the way to go?

I own a Nissan Wingroad Y12 model. I was advised to do a remapping. Where can I do it, and what is the cost? What else can I change in the engine to give it more power? Its a 1500cc engine and a 2005 model. I was told it uses the normal gear oil not the this true? Abraham Algar Wekeksa.

Hello Father Abraham,

What was the idea behind ‘remapping’ a Wingroad? More power? You may be barking up the wrong tree here; just sell it and literally buy any of its competitors.

They will show more motivation on the road. The cost of mapping an ECU will depend on who is doing it.

You could do it yourself - which I doubt since you want to know where to do it and mapping an ECU calls for a slightly higher automotive education than most have - or you could pay anything up to Sh45,000 for someone to do it; and I do mean anything.

Mapping service costs vary from tuner to tuner, there is no RRP or government-mandated charge for the task.

But really; mapping a Wingroad... Unless you are doing a whole raft of modifications - up to and including but not limited to upgrading engine components - mapping is a bit pointless.

Just advance the timing and run on V Power. Or! Buy something else; a Wingroad is not a good starting point for a discussion on power.

What does the car handbook say? Does it have a standard automatic or does it have a CVT? That is what will determine the type of transmission oil it uses, not conjecture.

I need to gift myself with a small car as I turn 30

I have been a follower of your articles for some time now and for sure, you are doing a good job. I am thinking of getting a small car as I turn 30. What I have in mind is a 1500cc Subaru Impreza or 1500cc/1800cc Toyota Auris.

Last week you said space and comfort should come first for first-time car owners, but there is something else I am looking for. I want a car that is easy to maintain for a long time. ‘Easy’ here is not synonymous to cheap. Please advise. Ken

This is a clear-cut case of “either/or”. It really doesn’t matter one way or the other, the differences in maintenance costs (if any) are negligible and can be swayed in one direction or the other by factors outside brand names and car models.

Now that you say easy and cheap are not synonymous, then “Subaru” is what you need to be thinking about the whole time. Parts (and skills) will not be cheap, but they will outlast anything and everything on the Toyota.

Having car trouble? Write to [email protected] for free advice.